To many people; when you say the word “cigar” their minds think of Cuba; partly because; in our “Western” versions of history, Columbus “discovered” tobacco smoking when his fleet “discovered” the Caribbean island we have since named Cuba. Cuba does have a very real and legitimate claim to fame with true tobacco aficionados; the blending of tobacco leaves together to produce a fine cigar has been likened to wine making. You have to have the right type of plant and grow it in the correct soil under the most advantageous climatic conditions to produce; either a fine wine; or a premium cigar. For cigar tobacco, Cuba meets all these conditions – hence, most people believe that the best cigars can only come from Cuba.
Two Companies; One Brand Name
Montecristo Cigars originated in Cuba in 1935 and are still produced there for the Cuban Government tobacco company (Cubatobaco) whose trading arm (Habanos SA) controls their promotion, distribution and export. In general, Habanos owns the trademarks (such as Montecristo Cigars) for all Cuban brands in all the countries that they export them to. However; following the Cuban Revolution; the one country in the world where Habanos does not operate is the United States – because of the trade embargo that the US instigated against Castro’s Cuba in 1962.
Americans have long appreciated smoking a good cigar (rumor even has it that, just before announcing the Cuban embargo, Kennedy sent out an aide to secretly buy up as many Cuban cigars as possible). Many cigar makers have set up shop in the US to make the most of its sizeable market – many of these were around Tampa in Florida because of that area’s proximity to Cuba and ready import of raw Cuban tobacco leaves for their cigar factories. This is another factor that plays its part in our associating “cigar” with Cuba.
Other Caribbean & Central American Tobaccos
Countries like Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic contain geographic regions similar to the tobacco growing parts of Cuba and, using Cuban tobacco seed; these countries have successfully taken up tobacco growing with a quality that many say is equal to its Cuban origins. Cubans escaping the revolution back home also moved to these neighboring regions and continued to be involved in the tobacco business.
Menéndez, García, y Cía; who were the original owners of Montecristo Cigars in Cuba “escaped” to the Dominican Republic to continue owning their business. However, they ran up against trade mark problems everywhere – apart from the USA (which does not recognize Cuban names). Montecristo Cigars on sale in the States now come from their factories in Dominican Republic; although the original Menéndez, García, y Cía concern has been absorbed by Altadis SA, a division of Imperial Tobacco.